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Baseball: Cal battles for big win vs. USC

For the second straight game, Cal baseball needed late-game heroics to pull off the win

Jeffrey Mitchell Jr.’s go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning pushed Cal’s 9-8 win over USC Saturday night.
Jeff Weisinger, CGB

This time, they didn’t need a walk-off home run to come away with a win. But the Cal baseball team did need some late-game heroics in their Saturday night matchup against USC.

Cameron Eden hit a two-run homer to left field to tie the game at eight and Jeffrey Mitchell Jr. Drilled the go-ahead RBI single afterwards in the Bears 9-8 win over the Trojans in Berkeley.

“In my first couple at-bats, I got a couple of hustle hits, and at that point I was just trying to do something for my team,” Eden said. “They’ve picked me up every game this whole year, so it was my turn to return the favor.

“I wasn’t looking for anything special, I was just looking to get on one.”

Eden’s two-run homer and Mitchell’s go-ahead RBI single sparked Cal’s key three-run eighth inning after the Bears gave up a three-run inning to USC in the sixth that then gave the Trojans a 7-5 lead entering the bottom half. Cal clawed back within a run to make it 7-6 after the sixth off of a solo homer by Preston Grand Pre.

Both teams exchanged runs back and forth throughout the night for the second straight game in a row.

“They’re going to punch us and we’re going to have to punch back,” Cal head coach David Esquer said. “You’re not going to get a lead and be able to sit on it.”

USC struck the first blow in the second inning off of a two-run homer by Adalberto Carillo off of Cal starter Joey Matulovich. The home run came just after Matulovich sat USC down in order to start the day. He ended up getting the no-decision, pitching five innings, allowing four runs on six hits with four strikeouts. Matulovich didn’t pitch terrible throughout his day on the mound, however, Esquer believes that he could’ve done better when asked why he pulled him after just five innings and 75 pitches.

“He’s frustrated with the quality of his secondary pitches,” Esquer explained. “He was kind of a one pitch guy and that’s really hard to do against a team like this in these conditions.”

The Bears answered back in the bottom of the second, striking for four runs to take a 4-2 lead, highlighted by a solo home run by Denis Karas and a two-RBI triple by Grand Pre.

Both teams traded runs again in the fourth inning as Dillon Paulson homered in the top half and Cameron Eden, reaching on a fielder’s choice, scored Jonah Davis, making it a 5-3 Cal lead after four.

California (18-18, 10-7) gets back to the .500 mark with the win and extends their home record to 14-6, winning their ninth straight game at home.

“Comfort plays a huge role (into playing at home),” Mitchell Jr. said. “Being a young team, you go into different parks and you go around the entire Pac-12 and all the fields play different.

“Part of it is the inexperience, but there isn’t really any excuse for that.”